Tag Archives: mental health

How ditching the classroom boosts children’s mental health

The WWF sponsored a green schools series in the Guardian Newspaper Online. Written by Matthew Jenkin this lovely article outlines how “Getting outdoors can pay dividends in academic performance – but it also improves pupils’ concentration and confidence.”

An Excerpt of the article is posted below….

Three years ago teacher Simon Poote spotted a disused strip of land on the grounds of Long Crendon school in Aylesbury. Instead of giving over the 15-metre square lawn to recreational use, or simply ignoring it, Poote saw potential for creating an outdoor learning space for the primary’s year 1 to 6 students. The only snag was how to pay for the plot’s transformation.

“We have lots of space but not much money,” says headteacher Sue Stamp. The school therefore appealed to parents, local businesses and the community to donate everything from landfill material to create small hills, to unwanted play equipment to build a trim trail and tunnels for the children to explore. Help came thick and fast, and the area now boasts a fully equipped thatched mud kitchen and a system of pipes and pulleys to transport water around the site.

Stamp insists outdoor learning has become more than just a project for the school, “it’s a way of life” she explains. The whole ethos of the school is to be outdoors as much as possible, rain or shine, so that students of all ages also take part in forest school activities in a wooded area alongside the playing field two days a week, learning skills such as fire lighting and making charcoal, as well as being allowed to climb trees, all under supervision.

“We have seen an amazing difference in some children,” she says. “Children who just didn’t engage in the classroom suddenly come into their own when they get outside.” Students who are less academically inclined gain in confidence and Stamp claims she has seen them step up as leaders in practical group activities for the first time.

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What the Outdoors Does to Your Brain

According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a 90-minute walk through a natural environment has a remarkably positive impact on people. In a survey taken afterwards, those who took the natural walk showed far lower levels of anxiety or obsessive worry. The control group who spent 90 minutes walking through a city did not share the nature groups up-beat mood.

 

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Children Need Unbounded Outdoor Play

Cognoscenti contributor John Less argues his reasons for advocating why children need to play and explore outdoors.

For children, the difference between observing creatures in a zoo or aquarium and catching a tadpole or a turtle in a pond is geometric. Feeling a live and wild animal wriggle in one’s palm is a different experience from seeing specimens in a controlled environment. Returning that creature back into its habitat, and doing it safely and with compassion, is equally important and rewarding. ‘Catch and release’ is a fundamental life experience that can only be learned in nature, and it is a core value of our humanity.

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